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Former Corrections Chairman using Influence

A recent Daily Texan editorial reported that Ray Allen, former House Corrections Chairman, made $395,000 to $835,000 from lobbying contracts, including one with GEO Group, Inc. Given the momentum behind private prison expansion and the changing of private prison contract oversight policy, it appears that Allen is working hard for his money.

One bill to increase private prison beds -- reported to be a GEO backed bill -- is HB 198 by Corrections Chairman Jerry Madden, which could expand overall prison capacity by 1,000 beds. Chairman Madden claims that there is current capacity -- about 40 empty beds -- in the Venus unit, and that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) can't contract for them because of the cap on private prison beds. So why the 1,000 new beds?

HB 198 already passed out of the House and will be heard in Senate Criminal Justice next week. Senators could at the very least limit the expansion to the 40 beds Madden claims are currently available.

Additionally, it appears that TDCJ and House Leadership have reached an agreement to move the office that oversees vendor contract monitoring to Austin, where private lobbyists will have greater access. According to reports, the office will structurally be under the Institutional Division, but its headquarters will be in Austin with a satellite office in Huntsville.

Fascinating developments.... It will be interesting to see how influential Allen has been when Session comes to close at the end of May.